What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is often misunderstood. For a long time, it was even considered too taboo to talk about and people would not even use the word. We believe that this is not an excuse to ignore sexual harassment, or to pretend that it does not exist. More importantly, sexual harassment is a crime punishable by the Egyptian Penal Code.

Have a look at the basic definition below, and the specific descriptions of different types of sexual harassment. You may be surprised at how much of what we regularly experience on our streets actually falls under the definition of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is:

any form of unwanted words and/or actions of a sexual nature that violate a person’s body, privacy, or feelings and make that person feel uncomfortable, threatened, insecure, scared, disrespected, startled, insulted, intimidated, abused, offended, or objectified.

Sexual harassment can take many different forms and include one or more types at one time:

  • Ogling: Staring or looking inappropriately at someone’s body, body parts, and/or eyes.
  • Facial expressions: Making any kind of facial expression (licking, winking, opening the mouth) that suggest sexual intentions.
  • Catcalls: Whistling, shouting, whispering, and any kind of sexually suggestive sounds/noises.
  • Comments: Sexual remarks about someone’s body or clothes or way of walking/behaving/working, telling sexual jokes or stories, suggestions that are sexual or offensive.
  • Stalking or following: Following someone, close or at a distance, by foot or in a car, repeatedly or just once, or waiting outside someone’s work/home/car etc.
  • Sexual invites: Asking for sex, describing sexual acts or wishes, asking for phone numbers, dinner dates and other suggestions that are implicitly or explicitly sexual in nature.
  • Unwanted attention: Interfering with someone’s work or actions by seeking unwelcome contact, asking to socialize, making sexual demands in exchange for work or other benefits, giving gifts that are sexually suggestive, insisting on walking/driving someone home or to work in spite of refusal from the other person.
  • Sexual photos: Showing sexual or private photos or pictures online or offline.
  • Online: Repeatedly or occasionally sending unwanted, abusive, or obscene messages, comments, and/or photos and videos via email, instant messaging, on social media, forums, blogs, or online discussion boards.
  • Phone calls: Making unwanted phone calls or sending text messages that are sexually suggestive or threatening.
  • Touching: Unwanted touching, massaging, pinching, rubbing up against, standing too close, grabbing, groping and any kind of unwanted sexual gesture towards someone.
  • Indecent exposure: Showing intimate body parts to someone, or masturbating in front of someone or in someone’s presence.
  • Threat: Threatening with any form of sexual harassment and/or assault (including rape).
  • Mob sexual harassment: Sexual harassment (any of the above categories) committed by large groups of people against one or more individuals.

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual violence. Other forms include:

  • Sexual assault: Coerced and/or forced sexual acts such as kissing, undressing etc.
  • Rape: Coerced and/or forced oral, anal, or vaginal penetration using body parts or other objects.
  • Mob sexual assault/rape:  Sexual assault (including rape), committed by large groups of people against one or more individuals.

Where?

Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence can take place anywhere, in both public and in private places, for example: the street, workplaces, public transportation, schools and universities, restaurants, malls, at home, in the company of others (family, relatives, and colleagues), online etc.

Who?

Harassers/perpetrators of sexual violence can be individuals or groups of men and/or women. The harasser can be a complete stranger or someone you know: an employer, employee, co-worker, customer, passerby, relative, family member, or a guest. The harassed can be individuals and groups of all kinds of women and/or men.

Important:

  • Sexual harassment is never okay.
  • It is never up to the harasser to decide what counts as harassment and what does not.
  • Sexual harassment is a crime.
  • Sexual harassment is never the fault of the harassed. To harass someone is a choice the harasser makes and regardless of what the harassed is wearing or doing, and this is never an excuse for harassment. It is easy – the harassed is never, partially or fully, responsible for any sexual harassment that they are subjected to.

Experienced sexual harassment, of any kind? Seen someone subjected to it? DON’T KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

Report it here, by SMS (6069), or email (report@harassmap.org), or on our page on Facebook.

Every reported incident provides important evidence that we use to build campaigns, conduct new research, and plan and mobilize community-based work all over Egypt to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment and assault.